Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Nebulous Blob Congeals - Support and Tools

Dirty Little Secret - I really wanted to build this thing to help ME. ME ME ME ME ME ME ME. Boo to y'all for calling me on it. I guess that's why I participate in this community - to find people who will drag me off the ledge.

So with that in mind, I started scrounging around the corners of the IT department to find tools that will help me and my fellow trainers brainwash unsuspecting students support our students.

We don't really have a "shared server" system in our organization. And our email is incredibly limited (as in, I can only send a 10 MB file and most people only have 20 MB of mailbox space). So the most immediate need was to find a way that students can send their projects to me for publication to the LMS.

I found a document management tool already in use where they can store their files and I can retrieve them when ready. After some conversation (and bribes), I managed to get access and a system for adding new users. Behold!

I was pretty happy to see the message board feature. There is another feature that I may try to configure as a Wiki. We'll see how this piece evolves.

The second thing I needed to find was a way to support the students while they were at their computer. I'd been looking for a "spycam" for quite some time. After a year of begging, I managed to get my hands on some help desk software that will allow me to see and take control of someone else's computer. The only thing the end-user needs is access to the internet. I can see what is going on. They can see what I am doing. All parties win.

The next task - figure out a way to cultivate other Captivate experts. I already have a potential victim highly tech savvy trainer on the soft skills side in mind.

(I hope she doesn't read this. bwahahahaha....)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Nebulous Blob Congeals - Classes

I've been working on a couple of other projects recently. This has given me the space to let my Captivate class / LMS series stew a bit.

A few decisions I've made as a result of everyone's helpful comments:

I've decided to create only 2 actual "classes" for the Captivate side of things.

Class #1 - A basic Captivate workshop. Students bring the PowerPoints they wish to convert. Limited to 5 people. By the end of the session (which I am guessing will be about 4 hours):

- They will be able to use the Captivate templates I provide. (This is where I attempt to sneak in some instructional design..hehehe)

- They will be able to add images, text boxes and the dreaded Next button.

- They will be able to upload their .cp files to a document management tool. I'll talk about this in a separate post. I'm getting pretty excited about the support tools for this project.

Class #2 - Creating Software Simulations / Advanced Interations. Students will bring the Captivate projects that require further interaction or the filming of a software simulation. From my knowledge of the immediate audience - 75% of the software that needs to be filmed is already available in our labs. That includes our enterprise system and a number of web applications. If they are filming something else, I'll do a personal session. Again, I'm going to limit the classroom to 5 people and 4 hours. By the end of the session:

- They will be able to set up Captivate for optimum simulation filming. I'm going to give them a tip-sheet with tips and tricks from 5 hard years of mistake-making.

- They will be able to add click boxes, text entry boxes and buttons not named Next.

- They will be able to redirect click boxes, buttons and slides to places other than the next slide.

- They will be able to preview portions of their project.

With Dave and Janet's feedback, I realized that most everything else needs to be dealt with on an as-needed, custom basis. So I started scrounging around for support tools. I'll talk about that tomorrow....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Random Notes from the Communications Reorg

I think I almost have everything set up.

- Found Twitter's facebook ap. Unfortunately, the new Facebook interface doesn't add your new applications to the applications area of the profile. As a result, I have to search for the ap each time I want to use it.

- Found Twitterfeed, which automatically sends a link of my new posts to twitter. So now I have a blogger to twitter to facebook interface. So excited I can hardly stand it!

- Mobile blogging with Blogger is awkward. My texting skills still leave a lot to be desired. I'll continue to use the laptop and wireless during DevLearn for my posts.

- Mobile Twittering with is less awkward. I'm not certain how I'm going to use it outside of DevLearn. Anyone want to go see the Sharks?

- I turned on the Twitter feeds to my mobile phone for Brent S., Mark O. and DevLearn 08. Uh - did it a bit early. I felt like I was eavesdropping on a conversation between Mark and Brent. Sorry guys.

- Big fan of VZ Navigator. Reasonably accurate traffic (easy around DC - just assume everything is at a standstill), rapid route updates, very clear instructions and you can turn off the voice.

- The Metro alerts are nice, but I'm still torn about how useful they truly are. I seem to be getting a lot of messages.

- Downloaded Mobile Spore. Finally finished one entire game. Love it because it is Metro friendly - each turn takes 1-3 minutes. Level 18 (the final level, to my dismay) is a beast. Sadly, it only goes from primordial goo to the sandy shore. A teaser for the real game.

- Oh yeah - and battery life on my new phone is AWESOME! With heavy data use (for me at least), I only need to charge it (at half full) every 4-5 days.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Context, Wendy....Context!!!!

Dave Ferguson and Janet Clary reminded me of an important addage...

It's about the learner, stupid!

They were more polite than that, of course.

Please read the comments and Dave's incredibly helpful blog post. I'm still processing their comments, but they helped a lot.

My original thought, and one I need to revisit, is having the students bring one of their original PowerPoints. Preferrably a smaller one. Do the initial basic conversion DURING the training. For most of the students, this should take care of the basics of using Captivate.

There is no reason for me to have more than 5 people in a class. I think I can handle 5 people.

I think I was over-estimating the size of the audience and became more concerned about scalability than I needed to be. We are going to be charging for the course / service. We'll be providing custom content seats, a Captivate license, support(of some sort), and some other goodies - but our group has never charged for our services before. I suspect that $$$$ will automatically reduce our demand.

Demand is the only reason why we are embarking on this in the first place. Seems like everyone wants to dump their stuff on our LMS and pull reports. Sadly, there's a lot that needs to happen technically to their original stuff before we can do that. (Don't get me started....) This course / support thing is an attempt to develop more technical expertise among the University's various staff trainers (both titled and non-titled) and allow the SMEs to get their stuff posted faster.

As much as I want to improve the instructional quality of the tutorials (Dave - I think 1 year is reeeeeaaaaly optimistic. I'll be happy to see the shift before I retire in 30+ years), maybe all I can do is sprinkle some suggestions in the templates and hope for the best. You all are right - I shouldn't be the one worrying about quality control. (Grrrr.... says Control-freak Wendy)

Janet, I wish I could say otherwise, but I don't currently have home-built models of the types of training I would like to see. The best I can demonstrate, for now, is some software simulations - where people have to do things other than click Next. Maybe that simple step - local and achievable - may be enough to get them thinking.

Still mulling over the support structure, what tools and performance support I want to provide, and what this is all going to look like. This project is still something of a nebulous cloud. I have an idea of what I want the long-term end product to look like. Not entirely sure how to get there yet.

I am still taking ideas / recommendations / feedback / help separating my grimy claws from The Precious / reminders that it is about the learner / etc.

Any and all help greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Teaching Folks to Fish

Thinking aloud.....advice and recommendations welcome.....


We have been getting progressively more demand from both within our IT group and from outside departments to convert their 100+ slide information-heavy PowerPoints into 100+ slide information-heavy Captivate projects that they can put on our LMS.

In response - the Director asked me to help develop a plan that would make our SMEs more independent. Essentially, letting them do the conversion themselves.

Of course - I twitched a little. The thought of having hundreds of dull click-to-death tutorials sullying my Precious LMS makes me more than a little crazy.

Think, Wendy.....THINK!

It's a given that I need to teach folks Captivate. Definitely don't want to make it just a one-time event.

I have to divide the course so that it builds on each other.

I ought to design the course (and the templates) to DISCOURAGE click to death design. But not make it so complicated that the SMEs throw up their hands and decide that it is too much work (or whine at me and tell me I need to do it and how dare we not help them).

There needs to be a "support" structure as well. One beyond "Call the Help Desk." And something more structured than - "Here's my business card, call me anytime." From experience - that way lies madness and defeats the purpose of this whole project.

There has to be a way to make the program "application-friendly". As in, the person feels excited and comfortable applying what they learn in the courses. Maybe this is where I can put some sort of 2.0 solution? Provide tools that allow them to develop some sort of community and help each other out?

The catch is - I can't allow these courses or add-ons to be too time-consuming for the students. Them needing to re-create their training is an add-on to their already busy jobs as it is.

My real goal in all of this is to help the SMEs develop enough basic technical expertise to create at least a first draft of what they need. I can then shift to the role of advisor, help strengthen their instructional design and provide further technical knowledge to create more complex interactions.

As much as I would like everyone to make the cognitive leap from click-to-death to fully-realized game with important decisions instantaneouly, it ain't gonna happen for most people.

If I can design small steps in the process and help folks establish some mastery, maybe I'll get somewhere.

What do you all think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blowing Up the Foundations

Across the street from my office, they are digging a large hole. When they tore down the old hospital on that site, they covered the foundation with dirt.

They started construction on the site last May. In August, they started controlled blasting, two to three times a day, to get rid of the old foundation and create a new parking deck below the buildings.

It took a month of daily blasting to get rid of the old foundation. Metal, cable bundles and miscellaneous odds and ends came out along with the dirt and concrete. I guess they could have used the old foundation, but it struck me that sometimes you need to destroy everything to strengthen the new structure.

The original hospital was built in 1948. The foundation was built to 1948 specifications. Increased knowledge about materials and architectural engineering will (hopefully) make the new foundation stronger.


I've been blowing up the foundations recently as well.

Old Assumption: I have to be able to do everything myself.
New Assumption: I have to be able to work with others to get things done.

That's a pretty big shift and one that is impacting things both at work and in my personal life.

When I decided it was time to get a new phone, I consciously involved the SO in the decision-making process. The old me would have just up and bought the phone. This time, I realized that me getting a new phone impacts our communication infrastructure and our household finances.

More variables were put into play beyond best price and what works for me.

- He needs a new phone too. Is it cheaper for us to get the phones together through one of those family offers?

- What are the pros and cons of getting onto the same network? (He's Sprint, I'm Verizon).

- My colleagues and friends are moving more towards texting rather than calling. Plus, Brent and Co. at the eLearning Guild seem to be organizing a significant part of the DevLearn 08 communication structure around Twitter. I definitely needed to quit being so stubborn and get a phone that did more than phone (send and receive voice calls for you youngsters). Should we consider those unlimited messaging plans together as well?

- How is this going to impact our monthly cash outflow? What can we do to minimize the increase for the both of us?

This process, of course, was significantly slower than my usual, impatient modus operandi. And, ultimately, I did what I was going to do anyway. I stayed on my plan and got the phone I wanted. He stayed on his plan, got the phone he wanted, and put off being sucked into the txt message culture for another couple of years.

It was a decision made jointly and, with the added research we both did, we both wound up saving money on both the phones and the plans we selected.

Even more important, the relationship is stronger as a result of me blowing up that foundational assumption.

Friday, October 10, 2008

First thing I would do.

Took a closer look at the Big Question.

If I had start my career over again. The one thing I would do first is.

Look at lots and lots of elearning.

The good, the bad, the ugly.

Then I would ask questions about each.

- Did I learn something from this? (i.e. am I really able to do something with the information presented in the tutorial?)
- What was really cool about this tutorial?
- Was I bored?
- How would I do this better?
- What would my product look like?

Then - build a tutorial with what you know from your experience and what you discovered from your research.

Use whatever you can get your grimy mitts on (think cheap and something you already have) to do it. Start with technology you are reasonably comfortable with first - PowerPoint is a really good option. Determine the limitation of that technology, then move on to another tool that you think will get you closer to your vision.

This way, you have models of what works and what doesn't. You can demonstrate your superior Instructional Design. You can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the different tools that are currently available. And you can start a portfolio of work.

I've been at this for a few years, and I am still asking
- what tools should I explore?
- what resources should I look at?
- what do I need to learn?

And I look at as much eLearning as I have time to look at that I don't develop so I can gather more ideas and models.

Learning as process.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Re-Developing the Communication Infrastructure

Usually, when I get a new phone (every 3-5 years or for as long as I can put it off) I get the simplest thing possible. The phone needs to do phone. I gotta be able to receive calls, send calls, hear people talking and have people hear me. Anything else is something that can potentially break and not necessary.

This model phone, through 6 years and 2 phones, has worked beautifully for me.

Note the lovely green and black LED interface.

Over the past 6 months, I have noticed that this "phone only needs to do phone" approach has stopped working.

- I see stuff happening in my environment I want to take a picture of (for the blog, of course), and I can't do it because my digital camera is at home.

- I receive text messages and I can't send a response. Furthermore, that message just cost me $$$.

- I need to communicate with a number of people at once and can't do it without either finding a computer (hopefully attached to the internet) or calling them individually or begging my more technologically-advanced friends to notify the others.

- I'm thinking Twitter is going to be much more useful if I'm mobile than if I'm sitting at my laptop. And with Brent and company using Twitter as a communication tool during DevLearn 2008 (, I figured I needed to find some way to make Twitter work for me before the conference in November.

Time to stop being so stubborn and join the texting / Twitter nation.

Behold! Wendy's new phone!

Sorry for the crummy picture. It's a touch screen and glossy.

This thing does practically everything except make dinner (I can look up recipes and cooking videos if I need to).

More importantly - this phone does phone beautifully.

If you are (masochistically) interested, you can follow my learning curve on Twitter and my new toy at